By Miles Baker
As a movie…
Red Dwarf: Return to Earth will not thrill Red Dwarf fans.
As a DVD set…
Red Dwarf: Return to Earth will thrill Red Dwarf fans
As a newcomer to the series…
Start somewhere else.
I’m a causal fan of the Red Dwarf series. I’ve only watched a couple seasons but I can tell you that this isn’t the best the series has to offer. It’s not terrible by any means, and there are some extremely clever moments. The best parts of the show are when it enters the realm of the post-post-post modern, including jokes that involve the physical box art.
The story picks up a few years after the last series. Dave Lister, the last human in the universe, is stuck on the enormous mining ship, Red Dwarf, with his evolved cat, annoying hologram superior, and overly helpful and neurotic robot. In the tradition of the series, a low-budget romp ensues that mixes standard science fiction concepts with humour — a genre I love.
The overall plot is Red Dwarf’s take on Blade Runner — which is a surprisingly under-served movie for parody considering how influential and important it is (and how often it gets rereleased). It’s a little disappointing that this isn’t funnier, considering that it’s fairly unspoiled comedic territory. I feel they don’t bring in enough Blade Runner elements to make a really successful parody, nor is the plot strong enough to stand on its one. Ultimately, the idea of the crew asking their creator for how much time they have left works better conceptually than it does on the screen.
I’d even argue that the performances aren’t up to the standards of the previous series. It can’t be easy getting back into these characters a decade after they last played them, and it shows. That said, the cast still has chemistry together and play off each other well.
The DVD set is far less disappointing. You get two commentaries (Naylor’s commentary is really honest and explains why Norman Lovett doesn’t return as Holly), a two-part documentary on the making-of, deleted scenes, bloopers, press materials and more. I think they scrapped together everything you could possibly know about this production. That’s a really good set — and a great reward for the fans.
So if you’re a big fan of Red Dwarf this set is worth getting — without a doubt. But if you’ve heard about the series and wanted to give it a shot I’d start with an earlier season.